Top 3 attributes of a successful family business

- April 3, 2024 3 MIN READ


Optimism is an important trait when it comes to running a successful family business, and Australian family businesses are well known for their positive attitude, writes Scott Wiltshire, vice president and general manager, Oracle NetSuite ANZ.

In fact, business consultancy PwC’s most recent Global Family Business Survey found that 85 per cent of Australian family-owned businesses expected growth over the next two years – a full 10 per cent higher than the global average.

Of course, optimism isn’t the only driver of success. Family businesses have succeeded by keeping operations efficient and making diligent decisions, while staying true to their long-term vision. By understanding the key traits that help family-owned businesses thrive across generations, businesses of all kinds can choose the right course of action to build long-term success.

Here are three of the top attributes of successful family-owned businesses:

Built-in efficiency

Family-owned businesses often don’t have (or want) the same access to funding as publicly traded companies, so they are well acquainted with the concept of “doing more with less”. Using tools that enable efficient operations can help save family-owned businesses both time and money, each of which are then reallocated to creating customer value and building a competitive advantage.

Sydney designer furniture retailer Life Interiors is a great example of this concept. Founded by brothers Basil and Geoff Karam in 2009, the business consolidated its operations into a integrated cloud business system which gave Life Interiors a single source of truth. With one view of inventory – more than 5,000 SKUs and 120 suppliers across both in-store and online channels – Life Interiors was able to triple its order volume over a three-year period. By automating key business processes and gaining visibility across operations, Basil and Geoff were able to focus on strategic tasks like delivering an elevated omnichannel customer experience.

Data-driven decision-making

Decentralised decision-making is another key attribute of outperforming family-owned businesses. Empowering employees at all levels to make decisions helps family-owned businesses respond quickly to changes in the market, seize new opportunities, and stay ahead of the competition.

To help team members make better decisions, they must have access to timely and accurate information. An enterprise resource planning system (ERP) can bring together data from across the business to provide users with real-time, accurate insights to make more informed decisions. Plus, with all decision-making staff having access to the same source of truth, family-owned businesses can benefit from better communication and collaboration across departments.

A firm vision and systematic approach

While it’s important to adapt to short-term changes in the market, leaders of successful family-owned businesses understand the value of looking ahead and planning for the future. In fact, McKinsey & Co reports that leaders of outperforming family-owned businesses credit their long-term perspective as one of the top three reasons for their success.

In addition to having a long-term vision, family-owned businesses also often have the freedom to take a more measured approach to pursuing growth. Not having to meet external stakeholder expectations means family-owned businesses can make decisions with long-term goals in mind, rather than short-term gains, and implement them at their own pace.

Australian-owned auto parts manufacturer Speedmaster provides a perfect example of this. The company has taken an incremental approach to growth over the last 40 years, gradually broadening its range of auto parts each year, to build a catalogue that now comprises more than 150,000 SKUs. A long-term vision, combined with a deliberate approach to growth, can help small businesses achieve strong, sustained performance.

There are many factors that contribute to the success of a family-owned business. Efficient operations allow them to focus on building customer value, a single source of truth improves the speed at which they can respond to market changes and opportunities, and commitment to a long-term vision helps them better plan for the future. By understanding and embracing these key attributes, businesses of all kinds can remain strong and chart a course towards true longevity.

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